Contact Us Site Map

Patent ductus arteriosus

Early symptoms are uncommon, but in the first year of life include increased work of breathing and poor weight gain. An uncorrected PDA may lead to congestive heart failure with increasing age.

A PDA allows a portion of oxygenated blood from the left heart to flow back to the lungs by flowing from the aorta (which has higher pressure) to the pulmonary artery. If this shunt is substantial, the neonate becomes short of breath: the additional fluid returning to the lungs increases lung pressure, leading to pulmonary hypertension, which in turn increases the energy required to inflate the lungs. This uses more calories than normal and often interferes with feeding in infancy. This condition, as a constellation of findings, is called congestive heart failure.

In some congenital heart defects (such as in transposition of the great vessels) a PDA may need to remain open, as it is the only way that oxygenated blood can mix with deoxygenated blood. In these cases, prostaglandins are used to keep the DA open and NSAIDs should not be administered, until surgical correction of the heart defect is completed.

Patients typically present in good health, with normal respirations and heart rate. If the PDA is moderate or large, widened pulse pressure and bounding peripheral pulses are frequently present, reflecting increased left ventricular stroke volume and diastolic run-off of blood into the (initially lower-resistance) pulmonary vascular bed. Prominent suprasternal and carotid pulsations may be noted secondary to increased left ventricular stroke volume.

PDA is usually diagnosed using noninvasive techniques. Echocardiography (in which sound waves are used to capture the motion of the heart) and associated Doppler studies are the primary methods of detecting PDA. Electrocardiography (ECG), in which electrodes are used to record the electrical activity of the heart, is not particularly helpful as no specific rhythms or ECG patterns can be used to detect PDA.

In the developing fetus, the DA is the vascular connection between the pulmonary artery and the aortic arch that allows most of the blood from the right ventricle to bypass the fetus' lungs, which are fluid-filled and compressed. During fetal development, this shunt protects the right ventricle from pumping against the high resistance in the lungs, which can lead to right ventricular failure if the DA closes in utero.

Neonates without adverse symptoms may simply be monitored as outpatients, while symptomatic PDA can be treated with both surgical and non-surgical methods. Surgically, the DA may be closed by ligation (though support in premature infants is mixed), either manually tied shut, or with intravascular coils or plugs that leads to formation of a thrombus in the DA.

Because prostaglandin E2 is responsible for keeping the DA open, NSAIDs (which can inhibit prostaglandin synthesis) such as indomethacin or a special form of ibuprofen have been used to initiate PDA closure. Recent findings from a systematic review concluded that, for closure of a PDA in preterm and/or low birth weight infants, ibuprofen is as effective as indomethacin. It also causes fewer side effects (such as transient renal insufficiency) and reduces the risk of necrotising enterocolitis. A review and meta-analysis showed that paracetamol may be effective for closure of a PDA in preterm infants. A recent network meta-analysis that compared indomethacin, paracetamol and ibuprofen at different doses and administration schemes among them found that a high dose of oral ibuprofen may offer the highest likelihood of closure in preterm infants.